An unusual complication of pigtail catheter insertion
Thoracostomy tubes are indicated for management of air or fluid in the pleural cavity. Pigtail catheters have emerged as an effective and less morbid alternative to traditional large bore chest tubes for evacuation of pleural air or fluid. However, they do not come without complications which commonly include pneumothorax and hemothorax. Rare complications in the literature such as left ventricular penetration, subclavian artery laceration and cerebral air embolism have been reported. We report a case of a 72-year-old male who presented with dyspnea and was found to have a right-sided pleural effusion requiring thoracentesis and subsequent pigtail catheter placement because of re-accumulation of the fluid. After accidental dislodgement of the catheter, it was replaced and the following day a chest X-ray (CXR) demonstrated diffuse subcutaneous emphysema. Computed tomography (CT) scan of the chest demonstrated the pigtail catheter tracking through the right middle and lower lobes reaching the posterior pleural space. We discuss the implications of this occurrence and recommended management based on our experience.